Monday, 30 May 2016

Vitality London 10,000 2016

I usually avoid these mass participation races, but I thought it'd be nice to extend the brilliant Westminster Mile event [read the blog here] into a full bank holiday weekend's worth of running. So I entered the race online a few weeks beforehand at a cost of £26, which is more than I'd usually pay for a 10k race but these Central London races are always a bit more expensive.

A race pack was sent out to me a couple of weeks before the event and it contained my race number, Ipico timing chip, a race day programme and the required items incase I wanted to leave my belongings in the baggage area during the race.

vitality london 10,000 [photos: 7t]

The race is always held on the late May bank holiday Monday, which is the day after the Westminster Mile where I ran a time of 5.41 [blog]. We had stayed overnight in London not far from the start-finish of the race, so the morning was fairly straightforward for me with just a short warm-up jog over to St. James's Park required.

The race start time was set at 10am, I arrived at about 9.40 and headed straight into the blue start pen. For the record there were four start pens on the day with the blue being the first to be sent out onto the road. It was pretty crowded towards the front of the pen and I managed to squeeze into a point that was more towards the front than the back.

pre-race [photos: 7t]

At 10am sharp the race was started and I slowly shunted further forward until I reached the start line. It took about 15 seconds to get there which wasn't too bad considering the amount of people running this race. However, I immediately remembered why I avoid these events. It was pretty congested all the way down the Mall and it wasn't until after the 1km point that I found that I had fallen into my intended pace.

The streets stayed more congested than I would have liked through until around 2.5km. At this point I found that the runners had spaced out enough for me to start to feel comfortable and really started to enjoy running through the streets of London. For the record, the course is basically completely flat - there are a couple of gradient changes over in the City of London but they are nothing more than that.

race underway [photos: mum]

The course worked its way from the Mall, past Trafalgar Square, along the Strand and into the City of London. It headed around the northern side of St. Paul's Cathedral and then looped back around where the 5km marker was found. I passed the halfway point in 20.37 (according to my stopwatch) and felt pretty good so I continued at the same effort level as I headed back towards Westminster.

The course largely followed the same roads as the outbound route for a while and it was nice to see the thousands of runners heading out towards the city as I made my way back. When the route reached Trafalgar Square, the runners headed down Whitehall and this is where knew I'd have some supporters awaiting me.

I was pretty excited about this and looking out for them proved to be a nice distraction as I tried to fight of a mild stitch that I felt forming. Then just as I reached the end of Whitehall (technically Parliament Street) I saw my nephew and mum waiting for me.

post-run [photos: neil reissland / 7t / mum]

My mum was trying to take a photo of me at this point but had a bit of a senior moment with her phone and didn't manage to take a photo - on the plus side I did get a hi-five from my nephew which set me up nicely for the last kilometre.

The last kilometre is the place where there is no longer any point in reserving any energy, so heading along Birdcage Walk was a bit of a blur. I pushed as hard as possible and although I didn't really acknowledge any of the crowds, it was really packed and the cheering really helped me to continue to push.

With 400 metres left to go I checked my stopwatch and saw that I was on for a sub-41 time, which was great news and provided another additional boost for me. So for the second time in as many days, I turned onto Spur Road and crossed the finish line in the view of Buckingham Palace. I had indeed come in under 41 minutes and done so with a negative split race.

2016 medal (back and front) [photos: 7t]

I went through the process of having my timing chip removed before moving onto the goody bag collection points. The bag contained a mixture of nuts, crispy things, drinks, and sun cream. But most importantly it contained the race medal and the Adidas race t-shirt. I like a nice close fit so I opted for the extra-small t-shirt and it fits really well.

After bumping into a few familiar faces, I located my mum and nephew and we made our way back over to the flat we were staying in. If I had been a little better organised I could have taken advantage of a free massage in one of the tents, but the queue was long and I was starting to shiver as I hadn't taken warmer clothes over to the park with me.

As an event, I thought it was really well organised. There is plenty of space in Green Park and the organisers use it well. The only real downside is the same old thing that you get in these big events, and that is the congestion during the first kilometre or two. To be fair, there were plenty of pre-race announcements telling runners to avoid over-seeding themselves when lining up, but apparently nobody really took any notice.

kilometre splits (under pace) and GPS trace of the course [photo: 7t]

I reviewed my GPS data on Strava after the race and I reckon I managed my pace really well. The congestion at the start cost me around 20 seconds, but I knew this would happen and was actually pleased that I hadn't lost even more time. So instead of becoming stressed about it, I stayed patient and was able to put in a cracking last few kilometres (the 10th was my fastest of the entire race), which I'm very proud of myself for doing.

Official Time (chip): 40.48
5km splits: 20.37 / 20.11
Position: 744 / total tbc
Official Results: London 10,000 (search page)
Official Results: London 10,000 (search fields completed)
Official Results: Run Britain (to follow)

Highbury Fields junior parkrun

We were staying in Central London for the Westminster Mile 2016 [blog] and as our wave wasn't due to start until 11.55am, that left plenty of time to squeeze in a junior parkrun. So the natural choice was to head over to Highbury Fields junior parkrun.

This junior parkrun takes place on part of the course that is used for the full 5k Highbury Fields parkrun [blog]. We travelled there on the tube to Highbury and Islington station (also served by mainline trains) because, well, it's central London and travelling by car would have been silly. Firstly there are parking restrictions in place all around the local area and secondly it's so much easier to use public transport while in the centre of London.

[photos: dani]

We left just enough time before the junior parkrun to visit the playground which we have been to before and is pretty cool. Soon enough parkrun o'clock came around and for this venue that time is 9.30am (remember, junior parkrun start times do vary between venues - check first!).

While the briefing took place I knocked out a teeny freedom run on the course (partly as a warm up for the Westminster Mile later that morning) which is 100% tarmac and undulates ever-so-slightly. Three anti-clockwise laps are required to complete the full 2 kilometres.

[photos: dani]

As I arrived back at the start/finish area, the official junior parkrun warm up was just about to start and largely used the template, but the day's warm-up leader threw in a few extra moves for fun (runner bean - broad bean!) and I liked this. All parkruns should feel familiar and follow the same processes, but it is very refreshing to see someone break away from the mould every now and then.

The runners were despatched straight after the warm-up and as Matilda wanted me to run with her, we headed off together for her three laps. The first two seemed to be fairly tough for her, but the third saw her spring into life and once she got a sniff of the finish line, I could barely keep up.

[photos: dani]

With her barcode scanned, we headed back to the playground to continue with the playing. She made me very dizzy on a roundabout thingy that requires the occupants to pedal. Then she insisted that I have a go on the gigantic slide - it was fun, but there were lots of kids playing so I declined the offer of a second go!

Then it was time to head over to Green Park for the Westminster Mile [blog], which is a great event. Shortly after arriving at Green Park, I received Matilda's result text message [full results here] and while she hadn't threatened her personal best 2k time, she did have a nice time at Highbury Fields and that's what it's all about. It's one that we'd certainly swing by again if the opportunity presented itself.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Westminster Mile 2016

The Westminster Mile has become one of those races that I just keep returning to year after year, so far there have been four events and I have attended three (2013 and 2015 being the other two - I missed 2014 as I was travelling to Germany for a half-marathon).

Even though the race itself is good enough, it's all the other small things that makes this a great event. We stayed over in London the night before the event and even had time to visit Highbury Fields junior parkrun (blog to follow) before heading over to Green Park to the main hub of the Westminster Mile event.

This year was a little different because instead of just myself racing, I had registered my wife and daughter as well. We had entered as part of the Sweatshop Running Community and made our way to the SRC tent where we did our last bits of preparation. Me and Matilda were both wearing our New Balance Zante v2 running shoes (blogs: mine / matilda's).

getting ready [photos: 7t / dani]

Sweatshop had three waves of runners, A, B, and C. I had registered first and my predicted finish time had me in wave A, while my wife and daughter were in wave C. I was a little apprehensive about the start time which was advertised as 11.55am because in 2015 the Sweatshop waves had been set off early which lead to some confusion and a little panic.

This year. the organisers stuck to the advertised time slots which was a relief. So at 11.55am, wave A was despatched and all was fine. After 2015 where I went out too hard and suffered. I decided to approach the race with a slightly different strategy this year - I went out at a strong pace but tried to keep things under control.

My goal was to finish in under 6 minutes and while on paper this looked do-able, my own confidence was a little low and I was unsure if I'd be able to do it. The race had markers every 400 metres plus an extra one with 200 metres left, so I used these to judge how I was doing. I knew I had to reach 400 metres in around 1.30, and I passed this at 1.24 which made me a little nervous that I had gone out a little too fast.

ready to go... [photos: dani / mum]

So I tried to stay relaxed through the second 400 metres in an attempt to reach the second half of the race in fairly decent shape. As I ran along Birdcage Walk I was overtaking other runners which was the complete opposite of how last year went, and mentally this really helped to get to the 1200 metre mark.

The last 400 metres was a case of giving it everything that was left. It was at this point that I spotted one of my running buddies from Dartford. He was a good 10-15 metres ahead and I wondered if I might be able to reach him if I had left enough in the tank.

As we turned the final corner and the finish line came into sight, I was about 5 metres behind. I really pushed hard and edged in front a couple of metres before the finish line. So a big thank you must go to Alec for giving me a target to aim for during that last 400 metres.

After finishing I hung around at the finish area to await the arrival of my wife and daughter whose wave were just about to be despatched. About 12 minutes later they came into sight and they crossed the line together. The same post-race system was in place as was last year. First there were the timing chip removal stations and these were followed by the goody bag station. The race medal was inside the goody bag.

We headed straight back over to the Sweatshop Running Community tent where we picked up our free lunch and found a nice spot to eat it. One of the great things about this event is that I find that I bump into so many people I know from various running groups, races and parkruns. It's such a great event for the running community and I have every intention of returning in 2017.

post-run [photos: 7t / dani]

The results were online later that day and my official chip time was 5.41. My wife and daughter completed their mile in 12.11. I've had a chance to think about things and I reckon that the track sessions I've been doing recently played a massive part in helping me to get the pacing for this just right.

Official chip time (me): 5.41 (Westminster Mile (search fields applied)
Dani / Matilda: 12.11 (Westminster Mile (search fields applied)
Official results: Westminster Mile 2016 (main search page)
Official results: Westminster Mile 2016 (run britain)

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Woking parkrun

Woking is a large town in Surrey with a population of around 63,000 people. Its first recorded in written form in the Domesday book as 'Wochinges' (or wochingas), but this would have referred to Old Woking rather than the modern town you see today.

The town has links to popular culture in the form of H.G Wells' novel War of the Worlds with one of Woking's suburbs 'Horsell Common' being the area where the invading martians first land. The band 'The Jam' are from the area and their number 1 song 'A Town Called Malice' is about Woking.

briefing and around the park [photos: 7t]

In 1902 the Brettell family, who were known as philanthropists, gave an area of land to the people of Woking with a conveyance order which stated that it 'shall not be used for any other purpose than a public park, public walks, gardens, recreation grounds, pleasure grounds and baths'.

Shortly after this, Woking Park opened to the public. It has been renovated, modified and extended since that time. In 2008 the park was under threat when proposals to relocate Woking College to the land were made - fortunately local residents fought this citing that to do this would be in breach of the original covenant. On 16 August 2014 the park became home to Woking parkrun.

around the park [photos: 7t / dani]

We visited this venue on Saturday 28 May 2016 (event 91) on a lovely morning. It also happened to be the same day that Guildford parkrun and Rushmoor parkrun (both local) were both cancelled, so it worked out to be quite a busy day for the volunteers who coped admirably with the increased number of runners - in fact, a new course attendance record of 340 was set.

We parked in the main Woking Park car park which is also used by people visiting the Pool in the Park swimming pool and leisure centre. According to the council's website and signs in the car park, it is free for up to three hours (the Woking parkrun website says four hours) has plenty of space and did the job nicely. Travel by train is totally do-able with Woking Train Station being just a short walk away. There are some bicycle racks for cyclists next to the car park.

the trail section [photos: 7t]

While I went and took some photos around the course, my wife and daughter hung out in the playground which was renovated in 2014 and the verdict from my daughter is that it is brilliant (I agree, it is superb!). Other facilities in the park include crazy golf, tennis courts, plus football and cricket pitches. In only a small park so it's quite amazing how they've managed to squeeze everything in while still retaining a nice peaceful space for the locals to chill out.

While I was wandering around I found the toilets, which are right next to the parkrun start line and the tennis courts. I also found a lovely pond and loads of beautiful trees and plants - it all felt rather lush. There was a scented garden which I entered and had a good sniff of - it smelt flowery. To top it all off I found some ducklings hanging out on the pond. Before I knew it, it was almost 9am and time for the briefing at the bandstand.

hi-five [photos: dani / 7t]

The parkrun takes place over a three-and-a-bit lap route around the park which is mostly tarmac but also features a section along a dirt trail through the woods. It was dry when I visited, but it looks like it can get pretty muddy on that section during the winter, so some kind of multi-terrain shoe would the best choice of footwear for this course. For the record, buggy runners will be fine on the course, but things do get a little congested.

The route is basically flat, but there is a slight incline towards the end of each lap to negotiate. Without doubt, my favourite thing about the route were the twists and turns of which there are many and they make the course a lot of fun to run around. There were also a few small bridges to cross where the route passes over the Hoe Stream.

woking parkrun [photos: dani / 7t]

It's worth noting that 340 runners on a three-and-a-bit lap course with a fair amount of narrow-ish paths meant that the faster runners soon caught up with the tail runner and started filtering through, lapping the back of the field. It wasn't easy and involved quite a lot of weaving, so if you are running sub-30 you will probably lap people and if you are running 27 minutes plus you will be lapped yourself. 27-30 minute runners are in that zone where they'll be doing both.

At the end of the run the barcode scanning was taken care of right next to the finish line and the results were online shortly after. I'm left with memories of a great park with an amazing children's playground. The parkrun was great fun and the course is flat and fast. The park was so great that we actually forgot to go to the post-run social which is in the Costa Coffee inside the leisure centre, but I'm sure that was also great!

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